EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Sydney McLaughlin looked to his left and saw the numbers “51.90”. His first thought: âOh my God!
Now, the world record for the 400-meter hurdles finally belongs to him.
On Sunday night at the Olympic Track Trials in the United States, McLaughlin finally edged Dalilah Muhammad to claim the victory and the record that Muhammad continued to grab whenever they met. McLaughlin’s 51.90 was good enough to beat Muhammad by 0.52 seconds. He broke Muhammad’s old world record of 0.26.
âIt’s one of those moments that you think and dream and play in your head that you’re going to put together,â said McLaughlin, who recently aligned with coach Bobby Kersee.
His record was the culmination of a day that included other types of history.
Noah Lyles won the 200 meters to punch his Olympic ticket, then celebrated by kneeling on the track and clasping his hands: 19.74 which followed some lackluster races in the 100 and 200 laps.
He co-starred with 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton, whose third place made him the youngest male member of the U.S. Olympic track and field team since Jim Ryun in 1964.
JuVaughn Harrison, 22 from LSU, won not one, but two titles on the same day to become the first American to compete in the high jump and long jump since Jim Thorpe in 1912.
âIt’s a lot of years for someone not to do it,â Harrison said. “It’s really good for me to have my name in the story like that.”
It’s a pretty incredible feat on a normal day. On this day – incredible.
Temperatures at Hayward Field reached 108 degrees and the runway surface exceeded 150.
This forced USA Track and Field to end the action around 3 p.m., shortly after heptathlete Taliyah Brooks was carried off the track in a wheelchair. Brooks was in fourth place when she fell during the javelin warm-ups. She did not return and when the competition resumed about five hours later, Annie Kunz took the victory.
Much earlier in the day, Paul Chelimo won by 0.19 seconds in a sprint to the finish of the men’s 5,000m, which had been moved to the morning to beat the heat. Much later on the track, Athing Mu won the women’s 800m and Cole Hocker edged out reigning Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz in the 1,500m.
McLaughlin’s race was delayed by about four hours. She said the wait “was a bit of a hit in our plan.”
âBut we were prepared for it,â she said. “Bobby is always talking about Muhammad Ali and always needs to be ready for that left hook.”
In this case, it was another Muhammad – Dalilah Muhammad – who in his own way prepared McLaughlin for this day.
It was the third consecutive major race in which the two met and a world record was set. The last two times, it was Muhammad who won. It first happened two years ago on a rainy day in Des Moines, Iowa, during national championships. And then, a few months later, at the world championships in Qatar. McLaughlin ran a time of 52.23 at the world championships but lost 0.07 of a second. This mark would have been the world record if it had performed it before Muhammad started rewriting the book that season.
âDalilah is a great competitor, and I was becoming my own person,â said McLaughlin when asked if she was chickened after having had such good times, to finish second.
She also credited a renewed sense of faith and, of course, Kersee, for this breakthrough.
Kersee is the legend who over the years has made the most of some of the greats in the sport including Allyson Felix, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner.
He put McLaughlin on a new plane – focusing her on improving her form by running shorter hurdles.
âIt was trusting the process, and a lot of things that you can’t really see coming,â McLaughlin said. âBut just having childlike faith in trusting everything is going to work. Bobby is really good at this.
Muhammad said getting to the starting line in this year that started with injuries and fear of COVID-19 has never been a sure thing. She said she couldn’t break 55 seconds to start the season.
âFor almost a month in a row, I kept asking (my trainer) every day in training, ‘You sure. Are you sure? ‘ Said Muhammad. “I am extremely grateful to be here today, and so grateful that these setbacks are behind me.”
The next step is the Olympics. The 400 hurdles finals are scheduled for August 4th. The world record in this event is still in jeopardy.
âShe’s definitely pushing me,â Muhammad said during his on-track interview. Then she turned to McLaughlin and said, âCongratulations, world record holder. It’s going to be a battle in Tokyo, that’s for sure.
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